Norway’s New Law on Universal Design
That I write this on my old WordPress blog is something of a personal defeat. I had tried publicizing the matter on my Norwegian blog, but alas there has been very little response. However, I have not time to get myself feeling down over it. It is very important to get the word out over what is happening in Norway.
From the 1st July, with few exceptions, Norway introduces a Law that both dis-empowers people with websites as well as bureaucratically telling them how they are going to design them. You cannot decide to ignore the new Law either. If you do, you will be prosecuted under the new discrimination Laws. Not only will you end up fined, but since you are breaking the Law you will presumably end up with a criminal record far more injurious than any financial penalty.
I cannot overemphasize the sheer outrageousness of what Norway has done. Using the visually impaired as their pretext – and a cynical excuse indeed this is – the authorities now lay down for you a whole set of criteria that you shall abide by if your webpage is going to be legal. The Law applies to you regardless of your nationality, regardless of where your webpage happens to reside physically (ie. regardless of where the server or the domain of your page are in the world) so long as your principal readership is the Norwegian public. In practice, this will apply to people residing in our country and their webpages, since it is unlikely that you will be prosecuted if you live outside it (even though it theoretically would be possible, reading the new Law).
Under this shameful and cowardly pretext, which I am sorry to say some of the organisations for the blind have swallowed lock, stock, and barrel in their welcoming of this Law, the authorities now remove your freedom to design your page as you want. Firstly this applies to all new pages, but from the year 2021 every single webpage in Norway must be compliant. The Law now tells you:
- what colour combinations you can and cannot use
- what contrasts of text you can and cannot use
- standards for your fonts that you must follow (ensuring that they can be changed for the visually impaired)
- rules you must comply with before you put in your hyperlinks
- standards you must comply with when using headlines to your text
- mandating the use of alternative text when you use media (sound, video, or pictures). Apart from making the job of putting a video online much harder, it will also in practice make it impossible to post if the text you now are mandated to include of necessity requires you to use copyrighted lyrics (as in music) which you do not have the rights or the money enough to put online.
- criteria your publishing tools must satisfy (ie the programs you use to design your webpages)
- a whole list of about forty other technical criteria, including amonst other things translation of your content into other languages, that you MUST comply with by Law.
Google Translate this: http://uu.difi.no/veiledning/nettsider/krav-til-nettlosninger/krav-wcag
If you are reading this, you are probably thinking that I am overreacting and have got the wrong end of the stick. Not at all. Norway has appointed an entire Government Department to start following up, and making sure that this new Law is obeyed. You can find out yourself by Google Translating what they have on their own webpage http://www.difi.no and more to the point http://www.difi.no/digital-forvaltning/universell-utforming. I say Google Translate, because despite these bureaucratic busybodies’ interference with your freedom as a webmaster telling you how you must make your content fully accessible into other languages, they themselves have not completely translated everything they are telling us in Norwegian into English. I wonder why? Perhaps because the Law is more suited the old Soviet Union than a modern democracy like Norway (if Norwegians are generally too Law-abiding and meek to stand up and say what they think, perhaps this is not something they want to advertise to the whole world?)
So why should you be outraged if you are not already outraged over your freedom of expression being taken from you? Because in my opinion this has nothing to do with accessibility at all. It has to do with money. Already, in the wake of this Law, commercial firms are creeping out of the woodwork with offers to make people’s webpages Law compliant. My belief is they have been in on this all along, and this is just a cynical measure to force us to pay for what we have been doing ourselves for many years.
Even worse, there are cases – though I shall leave them for you to find yourself and shall not name anyone here for legal reasons – where the “solutions” you and I now are required by Law to buy if we are going to have a webpage are to all intents and purposes this FREE WORDPRESS PLATFORM. You heard me right. There are certain Norwegian firms now SELLING solutions using WordPress and other platforms that were intended to give you and me FREE publishing on the Internet. In practice, because of the new Law’s strict criteria, what is going to happen is that Norwegians will still have webpages – but they will have to pay a third party for the privilege of using what they previously have used completely free (so the average person can guard against not being in compliance with the Law). If you are a developer of WordPress, you should also be outraged. Can someone explain to me why if I were to try selling Google Earth (as some do), that would be called a SCAM…. but certain Norwegian firms are now using this Law to make money selling WordPress?
I beg you to check out what I have written. Every word is true. It is time the world knew about this, and if this isn’t the time to use the “F” word and tell these power sick people where to get off, I don’t know when there is one. I haven’t named any commercial venture here, but if you Google the new Law you will find people offering courses for several thousands of Norwegian Crowns as well as “Internet Packages” for those who want to make personal webpages. Some of these “Internet Packages” are basically barely modified WordPress or Joomla.
This Law won’t affect personal blogs, but it will affect all other private webpages you might have – as well as schools, school music bands, football clubs, churches, and any organisation that uses the Internet. All of these, thanks to corporate greed, are now going to have to start paying up if they want to have a webpage in Norway.
Dam them. Dam their hypocrisy, because this has nothing to do with their pretended accessibility (if you don’t like my colours or fonts, you can change those in your browser or operative system today). And dam their attack on our freedoms to hell!